Two days and three marathons into a weekend-long, 136.5-mile run, Grant Evavold found himself relying on highway mile markers and Minnesota moonlight to make up for the dead watch on his wrist and dead lamp on his forehead.
Sure, it wasn’t the Boston Marathon or any of the other cancelled races that Evavold had planned to run this year. But, eight months into the pandemic, the scene felt fitting.
“It was a beautiful night, really,” he said. “And, you know, I was about as socially distanced as you can get.”
Evavold, a 12-time marathoner and a marketing campaign analyst at U.S. Bank, designed the solo run from his home in the Twin Cities to his birthplace of Rushford in rural southern Minnesota.
His goal was to raise funds and awareness to combat human trafficking. He accomplished both, thanks to supportive family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and a KTTC-TV crew. The more than $2,800 in donations to nonprofit 30 for Freedom he received will fund nearly 1,000 days of care for victims.
“Human trafficking is a tragedy and one of the human rights issues of our time,” he said. “When the miles got tough, I would think about the cause and the victims.”
This kept Evavold motivated over the three days, as did thoughts about his faith (he cites Hebrews 12:1-2 as a metaphor for both running and life) and his father who was in the hospital battling COVID-19 (“He thinks I’m crazy and was concerned about MY health,” Evavold smiled).
Of course, motivation aside, there are also the logistical challenges of running across a state. Evavold, whose marathon pace is just over a 7-minute mile, varied from 9-minute (“too fast” on day one) to 13-minute miles. He packed extra base layers for when the sun went down. After and before 10-hour days, he recovered in hotel pools and warmed up in hot tubs. And as is key to ultramarathons, he made a point to eat early and often.
Evavold also segmented the run with the help of an informal, last-minute sponsorship from his go-to convenience store, locally based Kwik Trip.
“I thought, ‘Is there any kind of partnership I can do with Kwik Trip, to help break the trip into manageable chunks?’” said Evavold, who has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and an MBA. “Then I reached out to their marketing department and apparently caught their interest with a #tourdekwiktrip theme.”
He went to work plotting out his route with the aim to stop at a store about every seven miles to grab a quick snack, which ranged from CLIF energy bars to beef sticks to chicken noodle soup.
“And glazed donuts,” he added. “That was my reward at the end of the day.”
Kwik Trip sent him a pair of branded sweatpants, a pouch for supplies and, importantly, a $100 store gift card to fuel the run. The 20th and final Kwik Trip stop came in Rushford on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving, when Evavold was met by cheering family and friends. As he approached their makeshift finish line tape, he reflected on the 136.5-mile journey.
“It’s given me confidence in looking at life – to be bold, to think big,” he said. “Distance running is a gift I’ve been given and now I was able to use it to help others. It’d be ideal if this could be an inspiration for people to think about how they can use their unique abilities.”
After a Sunday spent horizontally, Evavold went back to virtual work at U.S. Bank on Monday. He joined the bank last year in a role focusing on using Agile methodology to help drive digital transformation. He was attracted to banking because of the opportunity to help people with their finances and to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
“I really respect this company,” said Evavold. “U.S. Bank successfully balances a tradition of financial strength and stability while embracing innovation to help shape the future of the banking industry.”
He then nodded to the intersection of his professional role and personal passion.
“This is a place where you can move fast and make a difference.”